Posted on behalf of Nuno Dominguez.
Tobacco-control experts from 14 countries today advised Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy against changing anti-smoking laws to land a multibillion-dollar casino project in the country’s capital.
Reversing current smoke-free legislation would be a “shortsighted” move “with long-term negative consequences for the health and the economy of Spain, and for global tobacco control”, says an open letter to Rajoy by 37 doctors and tobacco control researchers at leading US and European institutions.
The letter is a response to US billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s plan to build a new €17-billion (US$23-billion) casino complex on the outskirts of Madrid. Adelson has said that the development will go ahead only if current legislation is changed to allow smoking at gaming tables. The regional and central government have repeatedly expressed their interest in landing the project, which could create 92,000 jobs in a country that has the highest unemployment rates in the European Union, and in a city that recently lost the race to host the 2020 Olympics. A decision has yet to be made but Spain’s government is currently considering how to defang the current legislation, which bans smoking in bars, restaurants, casinos and any other public establishments.
Allowing smoking in enclosed public spaces could reverse key health gains, including the recent fall in the incidence of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, says the letter, originally published by the science news website Materia. Lifting the smoking ban in Eurovegas will also break the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which Spain has ratified. Spain’s smoke-free law is “recognized by the international public health community as an example of good practice”, says the letter, and diluting it will have an impact on other countries. “The tobacco industry and its allies are always trying to dismantle anti-tobacco laws”, said cosigner Anna Gilmore of the Centre for Tobacco Control Studies of the University of Bath, UK. “A victory in Spain will encourage to keep on pushing in other countries,” she said.